Friday, February 26, 2010

A Spiritual Spring Cleaning

Last year Tim and I were blessed to attend a presentation of the symbolism and significance behind the Jewish tradition of the Passover meal. We were both fascinated by what we learned and discussed the beauty of ancient cultural and religious traditions and how so much of that Old Testament reverence is lost in our "what ever works for you" Christian culture. At the end of the presentation, the Jewish missionary who spoke, ended his time talking about the tradition of Lent. Having grown up in non-denominational and Southern Baptist churches, Lent was not something we observed or really spoke about. This novel idea excited Tim and I and last year we decided to fast away desserts and sweet treats for Lent.

This year we have again given up all things sweet and delicious. Lent started last Wednesday, Feb. 17th and continues until April 3rd, the day before Easter. Though giving up sweets may not seem too big a deal, let me tell you, it is tough. Its not so much the big treats (pies, cakes, cookies, etc.) because we don't eat a lot of those foods. Its the things we eat without thinking about it (a chocolate covered strawberry at Bible Study, a handful of M&Ms at the office, a mocha from Starbucks) that are hard to say no to.

I was reading about Lent earlier this week and really liked the following description from

The purpose of Lent is to be a season of fasting, self-denial, Christian growth, penitence, conversion, and simplicity. Lent, which comes from the Teutonic (Germanic) word for springtime, can be viewed as a spiritual spring cleaning: a time for taking spiritual inventory and then cleaning out those things which hinder our corporate and personal relationships with Jesus Christ and our service to him. Thus it is fitting that the season of Lent begin with a symbol of repentance: placing ashes mixed with oil on one's head or forehead. However, we must remember that our Lenten disciplines are supposed to ultimately transform our entire person: body, soul, and spirit. Our Lenten disciplines are supposed to help us become more like Christ. Eastern Christians call this process theosis, which St. Athanasius aptly describes as "becoming by grace what God is by nature."
(That last quote from St. Anthanasius makes me so excited and fills me with hope!)

Observing Lent has become a new tradition for our little family and I am very excited to incorporate it into our Easter celebration. Though giving up chocolate donuts does not seem like a spiritually transforming act, our decision to remove yummy things from our menu for the 46 days until we celebrate Christ's resurrection, allows us to be reminded of the huge act of self-denial our Savior made on our behalf. Thinking about His ultimate sacrifice makes putting down that cookie much easier.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


This weeks bread baking challenge was a smashing success! I had a lot of fun figuring out how to make bread from scratch though it took a lot longer then I anticipated. My advice for anyone wanting to experiment with baking bread: Give yourself an entire afternoon. My goal is to get faster and faster as I get more comfortable with the recipe and how to use the ingredients but until then, bread will definitely be a lazy Sunday afternoon or rainy day project. The mixing of the ingredients isn't the problem its the multiple times set aside for allowing the dough to rise that I wasn't prepared for. The plan was to have the bread with our dinner. It was a delicious 9:30 pm treat.

Here is the link for the recipe I used this go-around. Seriously, so delicious! A friend gave me her recipe which I will try next time that requires soaking the grains overnight.

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

I won't lie, I was quite proud of my little loaves. I am definitely hoping to make bread baking a weekly habit!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Healthy Obsessions

I'm discovering that I must have a bit of an obsessive personality. Since writing my first blog post on Friday, I have been thinking constantly about what to write on next. Something interesting will happen to Sawyer and I'll think, "Oh, I'll have to write a blog about that," or I'll remember something cool I read about or heard at Bible study and think it is most definitely blog worthy. This is exactly why I specified in my first ever post that my blog needed to have a focus and purpose. I really want my blog to be helpful, not just amusing or even interesting.

That being said, even the recent life lessons or events that I would categorize as "purposeful" or focused are hard to organize. God has been teaching me so much lately and I want to share it all. So, what to write about first...

I recently read a book called, "In Defense of Food" by Micheal Pollan. Those of you who have known me for a while know that I love to read. I prefer mystery novels. A good John Grisham (or if I am in a sappy mood, an old Victoria Holt) is always entertaining-which is usually why I'm be entertained. There are a few good Christian life books like Francis Chan's, "Crazy Love," or Gary Thomas', "Sacred Marriage," that I'll thrown in before bed time or Tim and I will go through together but when I want to just sit and veg and read, its usually going to be something requiring little brain activity. Pollan's book has changed that.

The last few months have been interesting for us. We're going through a lot of changes. Some easy, most hard, but all good. The word "refinement" comes to mind when I think about how life has been lately. Though most of the "refining" has been on our spiritual lives, a good portion of it has also been on our physical lives, specifically in regards to how we eat. I have recently met some super cool women who are really into eating well and "In Defense of Food" was recommended after I began to ask a bizzilion questions of the "how and why" nature. What a read!

Pollan's main theme is simple: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." He walks the reader through what this looks like and the common sense reasoning behind his passion to convince people to eat "real" food. I am such a fan.

For the last six or so weeks, I have been cooking and using real food. In the grocery store, I try to only buy things with ingredients I recognize and can pronounce. If I don't know what it is or where it comes from, I put it back on the shelf and look for something else. Oh and the less ingredients that better. Basically, it means shopping the outside isles of the grocery store and spending a lot more time at the local Farmer's Market.

It was definitely all overwhelming at first. When I was starting reading the book I began to go through my fridge and was shocked at how much non-real food I had. Even my orange juice wasn't really "real" orange juice! Trying to change my mindset from buying what is cheapest to buying what is best has been tough, especially on the food budget we're dealing with. I am having to get really creative with recipes and food spending but knowing I am feeding my family good food is ridiculously rewarding. And, ask Tim, we have been eatin' good lately. What I love so much about this way of thinking is its not a diet at all! The only foods restricted and the ones that aren't even real food! Bacon-real food, steak-real food, ice cream-real food, coffee-real food, even BUTTER is real food! Obviously, all things in moderation is always a good rule, but I am hear to testify that it is possible to eat really good and healthy food, while on a tight budget!

I have certainly not master the cooking part and it is not something we do every meal (today we had bbq brisket I bought and heated up in the microwave and served on buns made from about 30 ingredients) but I have challenged myself to try to make 4-5 dinners a week from real foods. So far, so good.

Each week I'm trying something new. Last week, I made whole wheat pancakes from scratch. Way better then Bisquick, let me tell you. This week, I am going to attempt to make bread. I'll let you know how that goes! I am going to make a file of the recipes I like so others can enjoy as well.

Of all our recent changes, the slow switch from processed foods to "real food" has been the most fun, hands down. I love all that I am learning about seasonal fruits and veggies, soil quality, and grass feed beef and (again with the obsessive personality) can't wait to learn more.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Quest for Noble Diligence

Pigs have flown. Amber Kanallakan is starting a blog. I honestly never thought it would happen and yet, here I am, sitting at my desk, trying to navigate through something called a "dashboard" while attempting to paste a cute background into a "gadget." I thought I was fairly PC savvy until this experience...

"So, why the blog?" You may be asking. Well, I always told myself that I would not join the throngs of mommy-bloggers unless I had a specific purpose in blogging. I am trying to minimize my time spent on the computer and so did not want to get into the habit of online daily journaling just because. I wanted my blogging to be focused. The question then became, focused on what?

I have been an "at home" mommy now for four months. The adjustment has been harder then I anticipated but I have already learned so much about who I am, what I am not, and who I want to become. I am discovering my passions and, along with my passions, my dreams. That statement will seem incredibly corny and dramatic to some, but if you are a "stay at home" person, I think you know what I am talking about. I am sorting through questions like, "What is the purpose of my life?" "What do I like to do?" "What do I want to be when I grow up?" These are all questions I had asked (and thought I'd answered) in college. The purpose of my life was to "love God by enjoying Him forever" (thank you Mr. Piper). As far as what I liked to do, "reading, singing, and hanging out with friends" was the typical answer I gave. When asked about what I wanted to be when I grew up, I answered, "a wife and mother and I want to manage a crisis pregnancy center."

It is amazing what you think you know when you're twenty. Yes, it was only five years ago, but now, being a wife and mother, having little time to read, sing, or hang out with friends, and trying to figure out how to love God and enjoy Him, if you were to ask me those three questions today, I'd say, "I haven't the foggiest idea." Thus, my blog.

As far as my life's purpose, I still believe it to be to glorify God in everything I do. I just need to figure out what that looks like in my current situation. How do I glorify God while doing laundry, thawing chicken, and vacuuming my carpet for the fifth time that day?

The question of what I like to do...well, that's a fun one because it seems to be evolving each week. I have found a new passion for cooking and meal planning (yes, you did just read that I am becoming passionate about meal planning). Because we are on a tight budget now that I am home, meal planning has become necessary and I am starting at square one as far as my "how to" skill level there. I am certainly far from mastering the art, but I am learning new things every week and am inspired by some new people God has brought into my life who are incredibly good at the whole "homemaker" thing.

What do I want to be when I grow up? The jury is still out on that one. I don't honestly know what my answer is to that but I do know that along the way I want to be the best wife and mom I can be and that I want to learn as much as I can about being a diligent, resourceful, frugal, classy, and creative woman.

All that being said, the purpose of my blog is to map my journey and hopefully give some encouragement to any of my friends or family who may be asking the same three questions. If nothing else, I am sure I'll be entertaining to watch as I struggle through the challenges of figuring it out. Plus, I think it will be fun to look back in a year and see how far I've come. I have both small and large goals for myself and my family and I have great expectations for seeing how and if I am able to meet those goals. The woman described in Proverbs 31 is my inspiration and everytime I read it, God highlights specific verses, showing me what He wants me to focus on at that time. Here are the verses I'd like to set the tone for this blogging adventure:

"She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 'Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.'" Proverbs 31:27-29